Sunshine Blogger Award

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A day or two ago I received a message that I was nominated for a Sunshine Blogger Award. It goes without saying that I was super excited about this. For those of you who haven’t heard of this award before, allow me to explain. The Sunshine Blogger Award is given by bloggers to other bloggers whom they find interesting or inspirational. The awarded blogger then, if he or she chooses to accept,  has to answer 11 questions, nominate 11 new candidates and come up with 11 new questions for them.

This honor was bestowed upon me by Paul from Paul Sees the World.  Not only was it great to be nominated, as it means someone is actually reading my blog, it was especially nice to be nominated by Paul. I always enjoy reading his blogs, whether it’s about his travels, food or cats. He has a great writing style, which I feel I can learn a lot from. Now as for the questions I was asked:

1.       Are you multi-lingual?
 Yes. My native language is Dutch, but I’ve learned how to speak English and German quite fluently in school. Besides these three I also studied French, Spanish and Italian. I can manage myself in these languages when on holiday, but I’m not exactly fluent in those. Oh, and having lived in China for six years I can get away with some Chinese as well.

2.       Do you have a pet?

        I do not. I’m afraid I would end up eating them.  (I kid, I kid)

3.       What is your favorite musician or group?

        I used to be a mega big fan of the Scottish band Texas. I went to quite a few of their shows, and bought tons of their albums and singles.  Later this spot was taken over by the band Muse. Although I still love both bands, I wouldn’t exactly call myself a die hard fan anymore.

4.       What is your favorite cuisine and why?  (I stole this one from Pavel)

        Now this is a tough one. I love food. It’s such an important part of my life. Whenever I travel I try loads of local dishes. It’s tricky to choose just one, but I can happily narrow it down to two. In every cuisine there will be food that I love and food that I don’t like, but in Italian and Japanese I pretty much love everything. In both cuisines the pure ingredients are at the core of the dish. There won’t be loads of added spices, simply let the ingredients speak for themselves.

5.       What 1 place do you most want to visit and why haven’t you visited yet?

        Another tricky question, as travel is just as much in my blood as food is. I’m fortunate to have been to quite a few places in my life, but there are always many more to visit. If I had to pinpoint one particular place I’m going to have to go with Australia, simply because it’s the first place I’ve wanted to visit as a child and it has always stuck with me.  I haven’t been there because it’s always such a long flight, but more importantly it seems like a very expensive destination.

6.       If you could have any one of your posts published to a very broad and large audience, which post would it be? (Go ahead and include the link)

        I don’t particularly have any posts that I am proud of, but I feel more people should know about Limburger cheese. Partially because I’m from that region, and partially because it gets a bad rep.

7.       When your not doing anything what are most often thinking about? (I stole this question from Hip to be Snark)

Well this one is easy. Food and travel. I’m constantly planning my next trip, as well as my next dinner.

8.       What one feature in WordPress do you wish you knew about earlier?

                There’s a feature somewhere hidden deep within the vaults of the WordPress setup system that allows you to add suggestions for articles at the end of your article.

9.       Is there any one blogger you would be most curious to meet in person and spend an afternoon with?

        It might sound weird to suggest the person who also put me up for this Sunshine Blogger Award, but I think it would be great to meet Paul from Paul Sees the World. I don’t know about afternoon though. Dinner and drinks somewhere seems much more appropriate.

10.   What do the people closest to you (significant other, close friends, families) think of you being a blogger?

My parents and friends seem to think my blog is interesting, but I don’t actually talk about it with them that much. I live halfway across the world from them, so I have better things to talk about.

11.   How much longer do you think Facebook will be around?
        Facebook will never die.

Now, time to nominate some bloggers. Do go out and read their blogs, I picked them for a reason.

1              Gyppo Travel Reviews – A fellow foodie, traveller and reviewer of unusual foods.
2             Wanderlustplusone – A great blog about travelling with children.
3             Joshi Daniel Photography – Amazing photographs, especially portraits.
4             Italophilia – A very informative blog about everything Italy
5             Through Open Lens – Another great photography blog. Lots of puns too.
6             Cooking with a Wallflower – Beautifully photographed food and recipes.
7             Love Travelling – Well written travel diaries from trips all over the globe.
8             Unbolt me – The writers of this blog can do magic with words.
9             Sizzles & Strings –  A great blog about all of my favorite things. Food, music, food.
10           Cooking without Limits – Tasty recipes with great pictures.
11           Passport Kiwi – A great blog for people who, like me, love lists.

And finally, to the people I nominated, if you accept the Sunshine Blogger Award, please answer these 11 questions, pick 11 new blogs, contact them to tell them you have nominated them, and come up with 11 new questions. If you accept, you can write up a blog entry like mine, thank the person who nominated you and remember to add a picture of the Sunshine Blogger Awards logo.

1             Why did you start writing your blog?
2              What is your favorite restaurant in the world?
3              Where would you live if you could live anywhere in the world?
4              Have you ever met anyone famous? Please do tell the story if you have.
5              What smell brings back your favorite childhood memories?
6             What is the weirdest food you have ever eaten?
7             What advice would you give to new bloggers?
8             What will the world look like in 50 years?
9             Who deserves an Oscar, but has never gotten one?
10           What’s your favorite fast food joint?
11           Would you spend your life savings to realize your dreams?

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Coconut cheese

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I love cheese. I’m from Holland. If you cut me open I bleed Gouda. My first job when I was sixteen was to man the cheese and deli department of the local supermarket. We had all kinds of cheeses, some of them with herbs or spices like cumin and stingy nettle. These days when I look at which kinds of cheese there are I often feel that people are taking their flavor combinations too far. On a recent visit to a cheese shop in Amsterdam I came across pesto cheese, chili cheese, truffle cheese and then – shockingly – coconut cheese. Seriously? Coconut cheese? Why?

Almost all the cheese was also available for taste in tiny morsels. Take a few of those and you have a nice cube of cheese. Eating my way through the shop I arrived at the coconut cheese. With thoughts of blasphemy I went for a morsel instead of a cube. I could definitely taste coconut. It wasn’t overly sweet like in a dessert, but it wasn’t savory like in a curry either. It definitely leaned more towards the sweet variety. I have to say I didn’t mind it. It was definitely interesting, just not enough to dig in for more.

Fear Factor – 4 / Taste Test – 6

Cold borscht with kefir

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Poland is one of a few countries where kefir is popular, and that’s where I tried it before. Kefir is a fermented milk that looks and tastes slightly curdled and tingles your mouth. In Poland they also use it as a base for a special kind of borscht. Chlodnik is a cold beetroot and kefir soup with boiled egg. There is definitely more than a few drops of kefir, as the soup is bright pink.

I had a bowl of chlodnik in Warsaw at a school cafeteria style restaurant called a “milk bar”. My first taste of kefir wasn’t great, so I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this soup. I didn’t like it. I loved it. The soup was so refreshing on a hot summer’s day. Not only because it was cold, but also because it was slightly sour. The creaminess and acidity combined made think that I was drinking pure salad cream. Believe me, there are worse things to drink.

Fear Factor – 4 / Taste Test – 9

Limburger cheese

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I was born and raised in the province of Limburg in The Netherlands. Around the world people know the word Limburg as a nickname for Rommedoux cheese, Limburger. Limburger became famous as the smelliest cheese in the world and even made it to some classic movies such as Charlie Chaplin’s. Nowadays this cheese is made in the neighboring Belgian province of Limburg, but that didn’t stop me from having a try.

To be honest, I didn’t think the cheese was all that smelly. Sure, it had an intense smell, but only if you came really close to it. Besides I have encountered cheese much smellier than this. The taste was not as strong as I expected. It was like a ripe brie, soft and creamy with a hint of sharpness. I rather enjoyed this piece of cheese as I found it strong enough to give some decent flavor, yet not too strong to make your eyes water.

Fear Factor – 5 / Taste Test – 9

 

Cherry & beer ice-cream

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At Fatamorgana, the modernist gelato shop in Rome a cherry and beer ice-cream caught my eye. Now I’m not the biggest beer drinker, but I do like a nice Kriek cherry beer in the summer, so I thought the combination would work.

On my first bite I could definitely tell there was beer in there, but after that the flavor of the beer just went away. Fortunately I was left with a beautiful cherry ice-cream. It was silky smooth and tasted of real cherries. I’m positive these guys make everything in-house with only the freshest ingredients and no additives. They don’t need to worry about preservation anyway as they’re bound to sell out.

Fear Factor – 1 / Taste Test – 7

Six months online

Another milestone has been reached today by reaching my six month anniversary. In those six months I’ve posted roughly 150 of my ramblings about food and drinks that I label as unusual. If you read my blog often you will know that “unusual” doesn’t always mean disgusting. I sometimes write about things like balls, brains and blood, but more often than not I write about flavor combinations that are unusual to me, or special editions of famous snacks.

I’m super excited when I get a new follower or when someone leaves a message, so a big thank you to everyone who has commented on or followed my blog. It has been a great motivator to keep me going. Otherwise I might have been faced with something that I wouldn’t want to eat, but now I often think “I have to do it, for my blog and my readers.” Thanks again guys.

Let’s look back at the past six months and see what my favorite and least favorite items were.

Favorite foods and drinks
Truffle ice-cream
Braised pork cheek
Green tea & chocolate egg waffles
Molecular xiaolongbao
Rosemary crème brulee

Least favorite foods and drinks
Durian
Pig’s blood cake
Cucumber chips
Durian chocolate
Strawberry KitKats

Biggest surprises
Bull’s testicle
Schmaltz
Goat curry
Chicken hearts
Corn ice-cream

Absinthe

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Absinthe is a very strong alcoholic drink that’s often portrayed in films as the mythical green fairy. It is made with a handful of herbs such as wormwood, which is said to give the drink hallucinogenic properties. For that reason it had been made illegal in many countries, including my home country of Holland. In fact, it has never been proven that absinthe is any more dangerous than regular alcohol.

In Krakow, Poland there is a bar called Absynt that, as you might have guessed, specializes in the green drink. I’ve seen absinthe prepared in movies before, and I always wanted to try, so here was my big chance.

The bartender first gave me a small tap of water and a bucket of ice. I could add as much of each as I wanted as the drink was 70% alcohol, and thus very strong. He then put what looked like a cake shovel on the glass with a sugar cube on top of that. The sugar was set on fire left to melt into the glass. I was advised to taste just a drop in order to check how much water I wanted to add.

To be honest, I didn’t feel like adding much water at all. The taste of anise seed was very strong, just like a French pastis or Greek ouzo. For me, it didn’t even feel that strong, but I didn’t want to look like a drunk either, so I did add some water and ice. It was a great ritual to experience, and I did like the drink, but it’s a bit elaborate and a little more expensive than other drinks.

Fear Factor – 4 / Taste Test – 9

Green tea & chocolate cookies

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I think this will mark my final thoughts on green tea, as I have tried a handful of different matcha desserts, and have written just as many blog entries about it. It was unusual at first bite, but it has steadily become normal, and I’m even starting to like it.

Recently I bought a green tea and chocolate cookie that turned out to be a sandwich of two matcha cookies with white chocolate in the middle. The cookies were super soft and crumbly with just a hint of the green tea, and the white chocolate gave it that added bit of sweetness. There was enough matcha powder used to let you taste the tea, but not too much so that it tastes grassy. This was by far the best green tea item I’ve yet tried.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 9  

100th post: help me choose my next dish

This is my one hundredth post on my blog, and I decided to make today’s post a special occasion. Today I won’t describe what unusual food I’ve eaten, but I am calling on my followers to help me choose what to eat next.

From July 9th to July 12th I will be on holiday in Poland and I’ve made reservations at a wonderful restaurant called Ed Red in Krakow. This place is renowned for their grilled steaks and use of local produce. Their menu also offers a lot of starters from the nose-to-tail dining category. Of course I can only choose one starter, but which one will it be?

Have a look at the list of starters below, and leave a reply to tell me which dish to choose. Obviously the dish with the most votes is the one that I will be going for. And now for the menu:

* Stuffed pig’s head with mushrooms on lentil salad

* Veal offal 5 ways – liver, sweetbread, tongue, cheeks, cerebellum

* Marrow bone with ox tail jam, radish and herbs

* Blood sausage with onion preserve and apple on fried bread

* Mountain oysters (bull testicle) with smoked white chocolate sauce and pickled grapes

Marmite toast

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Whenever I asked my British expat friends in China what food they missed most from home, they would often say “marmite”. I didn’t really know what marmite was, but I knew you could use it to make gravies and sauces. It turns out that marmite is the leftover yeast of the beer brewing process that is concentrated.

Many British people eat marmite plain on a slice of toast, so that’s what I set out to do. Marmite has a very strong flavor that I can only describe with that illustrious Japanese word “umami”. It’s very savory, meaty even, and also has a strong sourness to it. It’s too strong for me to eat plain on toast, but I can definitely see myself using it for a nice gravy.

Fear Factor – 4 / Taste Test – 5